When reason runs out

Fragments.jpgSince my move from New York a few months ago, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.  Big surprise to those who know me, I know…  I won’t go into all the details, but in summation, my pondering has dwelt mostly on trying to make sense of my present–and failing–so instead, thinking of my future and what I want it to look like.  Yes, I’ve prayed for God to have his will in these hopes and dreams.  However, that’s just a part of the good familiar Proverb.  Ironically (or rather, sovereignly), as of late, Proverbs 3:5-6 as well as other verses are echoing in my head, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight,” “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,” “Take up your cross and follow me,” and my grandma’s favorite, “But the Lord knows the way that I take and when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold.”* Together these verses have grounded me and reproofed me.  Perhaps, not always tied together, let me explain the dialogue these verses are making in my heart.

I am all too good at trusting in my own understanding.  Folks, that’s what getting good grades enables—self-assurance in my own ability to reason, analyze, and process through things.  Yes, sometimes my interpretations prove right, but when it comes to much of life, the reasoning is beyond my grasp.  This move for instance: I felt God’s direction in going, but I haven’t fully been able to see the reason for it.  So much of it screams, “why?”

In struggling to make sense of the present purpose, I switch to making plans for the future, the next chapter.  My way.  This move I did God’s way.  It doesn’t make sense to me, but thinking of a “better” alternative “my way” fails to follow that exhortation in Proverbs.  The proverb doesn’t claim that by forsaking my understanding, I will get God’s.  No, it just says, “trust” and watch.  God will guide step by step.  The Word guides as a lamp, little illuminations in the present, not floodlights to the future.

Living in the present is living in the unknown with acceptance but trust in the One who knows and who is supremely good.

I am called to trust and follow Jesus in His way.  His way wasn’t easy; it was filled with pain, isolation, rejection, loss, and ultimately, a cross.  But his way is also filled with restoration, healing, hope, new life, and ultimately, salvation.  What temporally is inexplicable and nonsensical—just ask Peter—is the eternal best for all humankind.  I will go through the fire in this life, but I will come out as gold—pure and holy.

God’s way is in the today.  It’s in the daily routine and unexpected interruptions to our plans.  It’s when and where he works to refine us and bring about the working of salvation.  Living in the present is living in the unknown with acceptance but trust in the One who knows and who is supremely good.  We’re just people—creatures—our knowing is nothing next to God’s.  Let’s trust him and let go of needing to know. (That’s what got us in this mess anyway–right, Adam and Eve?)

 *These verses are my memorized paraphrase of actual translations, not verbatim.


Hope for the Best

The last few months have been a whirl.  Packing up my life and moving temporarily in with my parents before permanently moving halfway across the country, it’s been a season of transition and change.  With that always comes the bitter and the sweet.  In my experience, more often than not the bitter is the temporal pains and the sweet the spiritual lessons gleaned along the way.  Springing from this season, eternal hope in glory is a sweet theme playing over and over in my heart.

13774350_1109086805796963_717508180_n(1)Hope is a touchstone word for me.  For so much of my life, hope was wrapped up in the earthly longings—hope for a husband, family, child; hope of a fulfilling vocation and career; hope for a home.  These hopes were no guarantees and nothing to depend upon.  In my reaction to crushed dreams, I tended toward eliminating hope.  “Prepare for the worst, and don’t hope for the best” was my mantra. It prohibited crushed expectations which soured life.  However, reading Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope,” or Romans 15:12, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” or Romans 5:3-5, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame,” or Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for,” filled me with shame for my lack of hope.  Although, I “knew” our hope was not founded on things of this earth but rather in things of heaven, I couldn’t claim it.  It wasn’t overflowing into my life.

My understanding of this hope eternal has grown through this move. In leaving my family—moving almost a thousand miles away—I gave up special times together, memories to be made, conversations to be had, baby cuddles, and hugs.  Besides the comforting confidence in following God’s will, the greater solace came in the knowledge that though I gave up time on earth with them, we will have all of eternity together.  Additionally, upon my arrival, I learned that a dear friend just received a diagnosis of cancer—terminal apart from the healing work of God.  The potential for a shortened time together here on earth, rallied this growing eternal hope within me.  For though I sorrow at the thought of not sharing more of my life with her, I am encouraged in the knowledge that any separation will be for a little while.  Eternity will be forever.

Of course, our hope eternal in glory is not only about the reunion of loved ones, but so much more.  It is the removal of sin and its wretched curse.  It’s the full satiation of all our longings in Christ Jesus our Savior.  It’s being at complete peace with God.  It’s the right ordering of all things.  Rather than shaming ourselves for longings, we can yearn for those things to be fulfilled in heaven–the rightful fulfillment.  In so doing, we follow Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

In the removal of the temporal, dearly loved ones and things in my life, God is breaking me free from the bounds of the earth and making way for me to follow faithfully with a view toward glory rather than merely five or ten years on earth.  Freedom comes in that outlook.  Hope overflows for that future when things will be made right and filled with all goodness.  “Hallelujah what a Savior,” we have for bringing about our salvation to this glorious end!

Shifting from Sand

The other day, I was sitting on the beach letting the waves lap up over me. In and out they came and went.  It didn’t take long for the sand to erode around me.  It was a challenge just to stay seated upright.  This brought back to mind thoughts I had earlier this month about building one’s foundation on sand or rock.  You know the story–Jesus tells his disciples that the foolish man built his house on the sand and the storm washed it away, unlike the wise man’s which was firmly founded on rock.

The beachAs with almost all that I am learning on this Christian walk, building on rock instead of sand is not a new concept, but the application is more fully revealed.  I remember as child chiding the silly man who thought it was a good idea to build on sand.  Anyone who had made a sand castle knew it couldn’t last!  Even as I grew older and understood the parable to be deeper–about life’s foundations–I did not internalize the application.  I was blind to my own architectural flaws.  It has taken the waves of life shifting my world around me for me to realize where I am founded.

Why am I so unsteady in my emotions, in my trust versus fears, in my anxiety?  Surely, I placed their weight on undependable structures.  Life is always moving.  Waves do not stop lapping.  I have to find a sure grounding if ever I am to be strong through the constant unknowns and trials ahead.  Ah, that is where Christ emerges–the cornerstone, the rock.  I’ve known that is what he is, but I now I know how vital he is to me as my sure foundation.

So much of the temporal has changed, but Jesus still remains the way, the truth, and the life.

He is the only one unchanging.  He is the only one always present with me.  He is the only one who will always be for me, love me.  He is.  Eternally without beginning and thousand years after his coming as a man, he is.  He is faithful to all these generations.  So much of the temporal has changed, but he still remains the way, the truth, and the life.

So, how do I move my foundation from the temporal to Christ?  I believe through prayer, taking thoughts captive, and meditation on the goodness of God, who he is, and who I am in him.  Realignment.

Are We Meaningless…?

Everything is meaningless, everything is vanity…

The truth of Ecclesiastes has been echoing through my days lately.  My routine has me going in circles to make money to spend on food and shelter and loans.  Eating and working ad naesiam until I die.  This is all of our lot.  We spend our precious lives merely trying to stay alive.  This begs the question, “For what?”  Surely, it must be that there is something more than this physical life!

flowersI turn my thoughts to consider the life and purpose of the other creations.  If you know me, it won’t come as a surprise that my mind settled on flowers.  Their delicacy boasts no power to accomplish.  Although some will give nectar to bees, in the larger picture, they are no necessity–seeming rather purposeless.  But wait!  I love flowers.  Seeing an exquisite array of color, shape, and shadow coupled with an aroma shoots off fireworks of joy in my heart.  I am filled with mirth that brings a sparkle to my eye, a smile to my lips, and a grateful praise to God.  If a flower, which appears more meaningless than a person, fulfills the purpose of bringing praise and glory to God, does this not moreover apply to my life, my purpose?

In our banal lives, we seek and fail to find meaning and purpose through the physical and tangible.  This is not the point of life!  We meet our purpose when the way we live–the way we let the beauty of God be manifest in our life–brings others to give glory to God.  When this happens, however trivial our life may seem, it is exceedingly valuable.  This frees us to let go of worldly treasures–success, wealth, and fame–and instead daily enjoy the peace that comes from fulfilling our true purpose.  May today we meet this higher calling!

Accepting, not Negotiating

It’s January, and we are all thinking about the New Year and all the things we want to accomplish.  What do we want our lives to look like by the end of the year?  But sometimes there are things in our lives we cannot change, and that can cause bitterness…but it should not.  How can we better handle it?

My thoughts turn back to Advent, to Mary.  I wonder at her willingness for the Lord to use her however he wanted.  She consented to becoming a single mother–something with the potential to ruin all her dreams for the future.  She did not caveat her obedience and faith on any conditions–like that she would no have embarrassment or that everyone would believe the miracle immediately or that her image would not be ruined or that her life would be easy.  She just accepted it.

I struggle with questioning the lot God gave me in life: “Why me”, “If I have to do this, why didn’t you give me ____ to make it more bearable?”  Looking at Mary, I cringe–nothing in my life has really made a huge impact on my future compared to having a baby sooner than I anticipated.  She is an encouragement to me to accept the struggles in life God gives me and trust that he will provide for me.  In the end, God did make sure Mary had a husband with which to walk through the unexpected.  He protected her and Jesus from Herod.  He provided her with a caretaker when Jesus died.  Likewise, God will provide support for me too. However, it is up to me to accept the challenges he sends me in life and trust him always.

What “Drives” Me

I am in the car a lot.  My commute every morning takes about forty-five minutes and the drive home fifty-five.  This gives me plenty of opportunities to get cut off, follow a bus, or slam on the brakes for someone deciding to turn at the last minute.  I have known all those blood-racing, face-burning flares called road rage.  Just add to that the times I leave for work two minutes late; the slightest slow down sends adrenaline through my veins as I will myself to get to work on time.  Fists clenched, body hunched forward, jaw set—all pushing forward in the effort to get to work faster.   I have started to catch myself in this cyclist pose.  I reason, “How is this going to get me to work faster?”  I definitely will not arrive in better shape to work—physically or mentally!

Nope, I need to relax, sit back, and enjoy the beauty of the sunrise throwing rays of light on the passing ridges—to let the stillness of the solitude erupt in peace washing my tense body and mind with release.  drivingbyYes, I may follow a bus for a mile taking minutes longer than I could at normal speed, but my mental displeasure at the delay will not quicken my arrival.  Some things are just out of my control, but what I can control is how I respond to those unexpected delays.

There is the common analogy of life being like a journey.  Isn’t it true that just as when I am driving and willing in vain to get where I want faster, we can impatiently crane our proverbial necks in an attempt to scout out life ahead in hopes we will get the life we so desire?  I like to clutch the wheel of my life pushing, pushing to see what is next.  “When will my life look how I want it to?  When will God enact the plans I want?”

Faster, faster

I have done this my whole life.  As a girl, I literally counted the years until I would go to college and get married—the college counting was accurate, the marrying not so much.  I look back now and chide the child I was for not enjoying the bliss of play and an afternoon flopped on my bed reading a novel.  I can never go back to the days I had no more responsibility than to do my homework and chores.

Now I look at my life and ask, “What am I going to miss in ten years which I can enjoy now?  What is my future self going to chide me for not embracing and savoring?  Why haven’t I applied the learned lesson that life goes fast and each season has its own joys to cherish?  Why do I still insist that my life ought to keep moving forward, keep improving on my schedule?  Haven’t I already seen the blessings of God’s timing unfold?”

Just as I have recognized the futility of tense driving, I see how ludicrous it is to try to rush God.  There are just some things out of my control.  What I can control is how I respond to the unexpected delays.  I am two years late on my childhood countdown to marriage.  It is not what I expected.  Sometimes, I feel like rushing it, willing that God would fulfill my little girl’s dream.  What I have learned in resting in God’s timing, is that there are blessings to enjoy in the meantime.  Like enjoying the morning drive’s sunrise, I have enjoyed the pleasure of my own place—prim and tidy with no dispute on where something should go or cleaning up after another.  I have enjoyed the freedom to road trip, visiting friends when my schedule allows.  I have enjoyed opportunity to involve myself in church ministry again only having to navigate one person’s schedule.  These are the joys of this part of my journey.

Although, I do not know where the road of my life on this earth will take me, I do know where it will end—and thank the Lord it is far better than arriving at work!